I often hear it said that the problem with birthdays when we get older is they never have the magic we enjoyed as children. Turning 44, for example, isn’t as meaningful as turning 6 or reaching double figures. We’ve long since stopped measuring ourselves against the pencil mark on the door to see if we grew overnight.
And it’s true, we can’t recapture that feeling because we can’t go back to a state of innocence. Once we eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, we realise Eden isn’t Eden any more – it never was, only we hadn’t known it before.
So does this mean birthdays should no longer be acknowledged?
Of course not. It just means we need to change the way we look at them.
When we are young, birthdays are about presents, about gaining extra privileges such as a later bedtime or increased pocket money, or being allowed to have sex (if we can find a willing partner) or getting served in a pub (legally).
But as we reach adulthood, birthdays are really a celebration of life. Despite all the efforts of a hostile universe, somehow we have survived another year. We are still alive. And that has to be worth noting.
So what is most important in our lives? What makes surviving another year worthwhile?
If we are to believe the messages we are bombarded with a thousand times a day from TV, magazines, posters, shop windows and our governments who drive the economy based on “growth”, then it is the accumulation of stuff and money. We can judge a person’s success by the car they drive, the neighbourhood they live in, the clothes they wear and the whiteness and straightness of their teeth.
In truth, however, the new iPhone, the latest TV, the fancy shoes etc, give us momentary pleasure only. It doesn’t last and it’s only a matter of time before it’s out of date and we feel we have to buy the next latest, newest, shiniest bauble in order to try and recapture that fleeting feeling of pleasure.
But what truly makes a difference is not the things we own - it is the people whose lives we touch.
It is friendships and deep connections with others that give our lives meaning, not trinkets.
And this birthday I was reminded of this in the most wonderful way possible, when Debra (From Skilled Hands) organised a Kim Ayres International Day with several other bloggers.
Before the day was out, Debra, Mary, Savannah, Eryl, Mapstew, Pat, Attila the Mom, Angry Parsnip, Brave Astronaut and Charlie had all put posts up on their own blogs wishing me a happy birthday and directing others to come over and say hello. And some of them wrote some truly warm and heartfelt things about me.
While I struggled to associate this person they described with how I see myself, there is no doubt they seemed genuine in their sentiments. I felt completely overwhelmed – honoured and humbled that these wonderful people would take the time to do such a thing, just for me.
So this birthday really did feel a wee bit magical.